4th August 1861


On Saturday an inquest was held on the body of Mrs Elizabeth Broadhurst, aged thirty-two years, the wife of Bernard Broadhurst, Esq, of No 20, Grosvenor-street. Mr Broadhurst was deeply affected and deposed that he came home about ten o’clock last Wednesday night, and found Mrs Broadhurst writing letters in the drawing-room, it being but a few weeks after her confinement. He sat with her for a short time, while she told him the purport of the note, and was writing another to a friend, when he left her and went upstairs to change his coat.

Ten minutes afterwards he was startled by her screams, “Oh, save me, save me! I’m on fire!” He ran down to the drawing-room, and discovered his wife in the middle of the drawing-room, enveloped in flames. Her clothes seemed entirely consumed and the furniture near her was on fire. She had on a white muslin dress and, unfortunately, one of those crinolines made of steel hoops. He lost no time in seizing upon two hearth-rugs, with which he covered her, and rang violently for assistance. The nurse, housemaid, and butler immediately attended. Every means was tried to extinguish the fire about and under the hoops with sofa cushions and other things at hand. He also knelt on and tried to compress and break the hoops for the purpose of putting the fire out. By their united efforts the burning dress and other garments outside the unfortunate lady’s crinoline were extinguished. It was found, however, shortly afterwards, that the flames had insinuated themselves underneath the steel-hooped crinoline, and that she had been still smouldering without their knowledge. The hoops had to be cut off before the fire could be extinguished.

Mr Broadhurst supposed that the deceased must have first ignited her sleeve by reaching over a candle for an envelope.

Dr Gull, of 17 Brook-street, deposed that he attended the deceased lady, and that she died from the effect of the burns she sustained a few hours afterwards. Dr Gull said he thought the jury ought to be advised that laundresses could, at the expense of one-eighth of a penny, put in their starch a chemical solution which would prevent their articles of dress from being so inflammable. In these days of art and science, he considered it shameful that something of this sort was not done to prevent these sad occurrences.


The Boston Daily Advertiser gives the following particulars of the fatal accident which happened to Fanny, the wife of Professor Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, at their residence at Cambridge (US), on the afternoon of the 9th instant.

While seated at her library table, making seals for the entertainment of her two children, a match or piece of lighted paper caught her dress, and in a moment she was enveloped in flames. Her husband ran to her assistance, and succeeded in extinguishing the flames, with considerable injury to himself.

Both of the sufferers were under the influence of ether during the night, and the following morning Mrs Longfellow rallied a little, but at eleven o’clock she was for ever released from suffering.

Professor Longfellow’s injuries, though serious, are not of a dangerous kind.


This week brought news of two more shocking deaths resulting from the fatal use of crinoline: the wife of Dr Broadhurst and the wife of the poet Longfellow. In the former case, we are informed that the coroner, in summing up, said that the deceased lady’s life might have been saved if it had not been for the crinoline, as it was impossible to extinguish the flames beneath those fatal hoops until they were cut off!

To protest against the use of an article of dress which can thus in an instant be converted into a fiery furnace is, we know, perfectly useless; for if writing against it could have driven it out of fashion, “crinoline accidents,” which we now so frequently see in large type at the head of newspaper paragraphs, would long ago have been things of the past. Had the warning been heeded, a hundred lives might have been spared; but, unfortunately, we may as soon expect to see the furnace hoops discontinued as hope, when an accident does occur, to extinguish the flames, and save the lady that wears them.

Of course, our fair friends, when they hear of these dreadful occurrences, exclaim with the utmost sympathy “How very shocking!” But, while they say so, they are wearing crinoline themselves, and never think that a drop of sealing-wax or a tiny taper may set their light muslin dresses instantaneously in a blaze.

There is a safeguard, which is as simple as it is easily adopted. It is only necessary for laundresses to put a little soda or ammonia into the starch used in preparing muslin dresses to render them perfectly uninflammable. It may perhaps save the life of a sister or wife, of a friend or an acquaintance. We cannot but hope, in all charity, after the pitiful losses which have recently been sustained, that its use will speedily become so universally known and practised, that never again may another fair victim be sacrificed while bound by cords of steel to the cruel crinoline.


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